The other ejected front-runners are the Muslim Brotherhood’s top strategist, multimillionaire Khairat el-Shater, and Mubarak’s controversial former spy chief and vice president, Omar Suleiman, according to state television.
The move elicited sharp criticism of the generals who have ruled the country since Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011 and fueled allegations that they are working to ensure that Egypt’s first democratically elected president is someone over whom they will be able to exert influence.
The generals have pledged to cede power to a civilian government by the end of June. But Egypt’s transition — closely watched across a region that has been roiled by revolts — has been a bumpy one.
“This is a purely political, unjustified, illegal decision,” said Mourad Mohammed Aly, Shater’s media adviser. “I cannot say exactly who is behind this, but it’s very clear this committee is not independent.” He added that the generals are “not feeling comfortable with some strong candidates, and this is an indicator that the coming election will not be a free election.”
The decision takes the two leading Islamist candidates out of contention and leaves those voters who want a more prominent role for religion in public life to choose among several lesser-known candidates.
Among the remaining candidates, the leading contenders are Amr Moussa, the former Arab League chief who has consistently polled on top; Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a progressive Islamist and former member of the Brotherhood; and the Brotherhood’s backup candidate, Mohammed Morsi.
Although Moussa was part of the previous government, he is popular with Egyptians because of his hard stance toward Israel during his tenure as Mubarak’s foreign minister. He is also well known to the ruling generals and, analysts say, is probably their preferred candidate.
Candidates decry ruling
The decision announced Tuesday upheld the commission’s surprise announcement Saturday that 10 of 23 presidential candidates were ineligible to run. Abu Ismail, Shater, Suleiman and two other candidates had appealed the ruling, but the commission rejected their claims, according to state television.
Late Tuesday, Abu Ismail called for a sit-in outside the commission headquarters until he gets reinstated, but he urged supporters to be peaceful. Shater called on his backers to continue the revolution and to protest the commission’s decision. But he also urged voters to back Morsi, who leads the Brotherhood’s political wing, according to state media.